A great hush surrounded me. The house– its halls and nooks and empty rooms and galleries were filled with a silence that seemed to have actual substance. And yet, it seemed to hold such potential for laughing voices, for music. I could hear the rustle of my every movement.
Like a homing pigeon, I went straight to a pair of French doors set in the stone wall. I could see light and greenery through the panes of glass. I unlatched and opened the doors, and as I did, a noise finally made it to my ears– the barking of a dog close by. I walked out onto a small porch of fitted stones, surrounded by plants and trees. The rich, full scent of lilacs filled my nose– one of my favorite– but glancing around, I saw no trees in bloom. The landscaping around this small, comfortable porch had once been intentional, but had not been controlled at all for some time. Verdant, leafy tendrils crept over the low,decorative iron railing, and tufts sprouted cheerfully out of cracks in the cement and stone.
I did not stand there for long. I spied steps leading down from the porch and headed for them. When I was a almost to them, a small, black, furry shape raced up them and began dancing around me in a circle, yipping and barking in what sounded like pure joy. I smiled and dropped to my knees. It was the little shaman dog with three legs. She licked my face, then dropped back and regarded me, her jaws wide open and her tongue lolling out, the very picture of a happy dog.
“Well, let’s go, then,” I said, and moved toward the steps. She jumped to her feet, quite agile for having only three legs. She hopped to my right side, and we descended together. I could see now the source of the lilac scent. The steps were worn stone, but very little of it showed– the entire flight of stairs was a an untamed flood of lilacs, low, heavily-laden branches sprawling across and down stair steps. The dog and I had to pick our way carefully. At first, I loved the smell, and took in huge, lung-expanding draught of it, but by the time I got to the bottom of the steps, I was coughing. The sweetness of the scent felt like it was strangling me. I sped my footsteps in order to clear it and find some fresh air.
The dog seemed very encouraged by my speeding up, and responded in turn, which spurred me to a trot in spite of my cough. The black dog raced ahead, turned on a dime, and came racing back. I couldn’t even tell she was missing a leg when she ran like that.
As for myself, I had to stop and catch my bretah, forcing a few last hacking coughs.out. I stood and breathed. The air was, indeed, very fresh and cool. The rising sun was, by now, clearing away the mist which had covered the long, tall grasses, but some still lingered. I touched a blade of grass, golden at the sharp blade, deep green at its base. Condesation covered it; my hand withdrew cold and wet. It was the kind of detail that makes you feel alive. I put my fingertips to my lips and felt the coldness there.
There was a cleared path through the grasses, which were about to my waist and much varied in color and texture. Some had fat parcels of seed clinging to them. I set out upon the path, the dog running ahead and disappearing into the grass. She had no need to stay on the path.